Elton John Talks Recovery

Authored by Matthew Idle

Edited by Alexander Bentley

Reviewed by Michael Por

Elton John talks Recovery with Worlds Best Rehab

Elton John is one of music’s greatest ever writers, composers, singers, and performers. He has simply done it all in music. His 25 platinum and 35 gold records are testament to the success achieved over a career spanning more than half a century.


While John’s music constantly changed and adapted to the times, there was one constant in the famous musician’s life for more than 20 years: drugs and alcohol. In the 1970s, John was a revered rock god on stage. Yet, off it, he was shy and reserved. It led John to cocaine in an attempt to make himself more exciting. John’s most successful years in the 1970s and 1980s were fueled by drugs and alcohol. Cocaine to get him going, marijuana to bring him down, and bottles of bourbon throughout the day to him revving.


After years of killing himself with substances, John finally decided to get sober in 1990. Now, he is celebrating over 30 years of sobriety thanks to making a life choice that not only kept the music going, it kept the Rocketman alive.

Sir Elton John Talks Recovery With Worlds Best Rehab Magazine

Lucy Jane: Sir Elton, can you tell us about the 1970s and 1980s when you experienced every day through a drug and alcohol haze?


Elton John: Well, it was bleak to say the least. I’d stay awake all night, smoking joints and drinking a bottle of Johnnie Walker. I’d stay up for two or three days before going to sleep for a day and a half. When I’d wake up, I was so hungry, as I hadn’t eaten for days. So, I’d binge eat on anything I had at home or could get on the road. I’d eat three bacon sandwiches and a tub of ice cream, then throw it all up. I was not only addicted to drugs and alcohol, I was bulimic. The saddest part is that I would go and do it all again. It was a terrible cycle.


LJ: You entered rehab in 1990. What led you to make that brave decision?


EJ: At the time, I wasn’t thinking about music as much as I did prior. I was thinking about the drugs, the alcohol more. I’d hit absolute bottom. That is what they say must happen before you get help, right? I hated myself and I was consumed by shame. After years of substance abuse, I wanted to get well and put my energy toward recovering. I’d never listened to others about drugs and alcohol before. But suddenly I was interested, I wanted to learn.


LJ: What was life like after treatment?


EJ: It was like being reborn once walking out of the rehab center. I was stripped down and completely vulnerable. It was like I started life all over without the drugs and alcohol and there was a new rule book to live by. I was taught in Alcoholics Anonymous/Narcotics Anonymous to live in the moment, one day at a time and one moment at a time to get the most out of everything and to stay sober.


LJ: Were you ever worried that after rehab you would stop performing or writing music?


EJ: I knew that if the universe wanted me to continue with my career then it would happen. If it was meant to be, my desire to write and perform would go on. I accepted that I was no longer in charge and everything was up to a higher power.


LJ: Was there anything you did after rehab to make the treatment more successful afterwards?


EJ: Absolutely. The best decision I made was to take a full year off of work. I had the ability to do that. Of course, not everyone does, but in my case, in an industry that is full of drugs and alcohol, it really helped. I was fully focused on my recover and cleared out my calendar for the year.


LJ: Was there a time when your sobriety was tested?


EJ: Of course, you cannot work in music without seeing alcohol or drug use. But the first real test I had as a sober person was in October 1991. I was at George Michael’s concert in Chicago at the Rosemont Horizon. I came on stage to sing “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” with George. We surprised the audience with my appearance and the place went crazy when I was announced. I was so nervous and making matters worse was that I wasn’t sitting at a piano. It was a major moment in my career. We later released the track as a single and it hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.


LJ: Did you change your touring schedule based on being clean and sober?


EJ: Yes, I felt I had to, to stay sober. After sing with George in Chicago, I wanted to go out and perform once more. I put together by tour schedule with AA/NA meetings built into it. This allowed me to keep up with meetings and have the support I needed while working a full schedule. No matter where I went on tour, I found a meeting and attended. Remarkably, it isn’t as hard as it sounds. Sometimes, I didn’t even speak the same language as everyone else at the AA/NA meetings. But I still went, because when I left, I felt strong. I was more empowered than just an hour before when I arrived. The meetings kept my feet on the ground and provided structure to my life.


LJ: Elton, not only did you get clean and sober, but you have stayed that way for more than 30 years. In addition, you have continued to perform at the highest level possible. What is your advice to other people struggling with drug and alcohol addiction that want to get help but are afraid to do it?


EJ: My advice to anyone facing drug and alcohol addiction is to get humble. There is help out there and you can beat addiction one day at a time. Recovery should be your priority and the most important thing. Once you finish rehab, stay humble, don’t return to work too quickly. Take time to learn and heal.


In July 2022, Sir Elton John will celebrate 32 years of sobriety. The Rocketman has officially sold over 300 million albums and remains one of the biggest musicians of the last 50-plus years.


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